Equities.com’s George Brooks began the Wednesday by asking if the market could shake off the disappointing housing data that was released ahead of the opening bell, and he got his answer from Wall Street in the form of a resounding “no.” The Department of Commerce’s report on housing starts for the month of January showed that new construction had contracted by 16 percent during the period, the latest in a series of indications that the US economic recovery may be in question.
While the housing news could reasonably be explained by the extremely harsh US winter, it was exacerbated by the release of the minutes from the previous month’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Investors were unnerved by what appears to be considerable disunity among board members, who are now confronted with the delicate balancing act of keeping interest rates low while simultaneously implementing further reductions to Treasury spending, sending stocks significantly lower across the board.
The Day’s Results
? Standard & Poor’s 500: -0.65 percent to 1828.75
? Dow Jones Industrial Average: -0.56 percent to 16,040.56
? NASDAQ: -0.82 percent to 4,237.95
Equities.com’s Top Stories
? Andrew Klips has the details of the $690 million Signet Jewelers Ltd. (SIG) acquisition of rival Zale Corp. (ZLC) .
? Small-cap biotech firm Chelsea Therapeutics International (CHTP) added nearly 25 percent on the day after the FDA approved its blood pressure treatment, Northera. Senior Editor Joel Anderson has the story.
? Senior Editor Jacob Harper takes a look at the inflating bubble that is micro-cap IT provider/daily deals site LiveDeal (LIVE) , a company whose stock is approaching six-bagger status in 2014 alone.
? Benjamin Cox, managing director of the commodities exploration research firm Oreninc discusses HudBay Minerals Inc.’s (HBM) attempt to buy out Augusta Resource Corporation (AZC) .
? Upstream oil and gas service provider Nabors Industries (NBR) ended the day over 13 percent higher after beating EPS expectations for its fourth-quarter of 2013, thanks in large part to huge strides in international operations. Senior Editor Michael Teague has the specifics.
? In case you missed it on Tuesday, Jacob Harper chimed in with an interesting piece on the ostensibly dismal future of the payday loan industry.
On the S&P 500
The day’s selling activity hit a number of sectors, with United States Steel Corp. (X) off by 7 percent, while mega drug manufacturer Pfizer Inc. (PFE) was off by over one percent. Financials were hit particularly hard, with Citigroup (C) , JPMorgan Chase (JPM) , and Bank of America (BAC) down substantially on heavy trading as well.
On the Dow
Verizon (VZ) and Chevron (CVX) were the only real signs of life among the Dow Industrials, 24 of whose components ended the day in the red. Boeing Co. (BA) , Home Depot (HD) , and Merck & Co. (MRK) joined JPMorgan and Pfizer as the day’s biggest losers.
On the NASDAQ
Despite the impressive 25 percent gains for Chelsea Therapeutics, it was a sad day for the exchange, and tech shares unequivocally led the way down. Microsoft (MSFT) , Intel (INTC) , Groupon (GRPN) and Plug Power Inc. (PLUG) all suffered heavy losses. Generic drug-maker Mylan ($MYL), provided a lonely counterpoint, joining the big-pharma rally with gains of nearly 6 percent.